Think about the presentations you’ve sat through in your career, education and life. The difference between how you feel having witnessed a good presentation vs. a bad presentation is night and day, right? Subpar presentations leave audience members feeling drained, bored, confused and frustrated. On the other hand, people walk out of the room following an effective presentation feeling energized, motivated, informed and clear on how to act next.
If the nicest thing you can say after a presentation is, “Well, at least it’s over… “ then the presenter has clearly fallen short of their mark. And that’s exactly the reaction you want to avoid next time you stand in front of an audience.
Before you start putting together your deck and compiling research, it pays to consider what not to do in your next PowerPoint presentation. Knowing which behaviors to avoid will help you stick to best practices so you can get your points across and win over the room.
Mistake #1: Making Your Slides Do the Heavy Lifting
The minute you transition to a slide full of text and charts, you lose your audience. If you try to talk over the top of a dense slide, you’ll put people in the position of trying to multitask by listening and reading. The outcome? They’ll retain less of what they saw and heard because their attention is spread too thinly.
Slides are meant to reinforce points you’re making rather than stand alone as a bastion of information. Ideally, each slide will convey just one important point. If you’re going to use bullet points, avoid writing more than five lines of text. Digestibility is key!
Mistake #2: Sticking to a Lecture-Only Format
There are a few tell-tale signs of audience disengagement: glazed eyes, fidgeting, whispering, doodling and people checking their phones, to name just a handful. The longer you lecture continuously without giving your audience a reason to engage, the higher the risk you’ll see people start to check out.
Asking your audience to actively participate is a great way to get them invested in whatever you’re saying. If you kick off your presentation by saying people can earn points by answering Poll Everywhere PowerPoint quiz questions from their phones, you’ve already primed participants to want to listen closely and retain information. Every few slides, embed a multiple-choice question about a topic you’ve already covered. Audience members can even earn points for correct answers, making your presentation part of a running game.
Mistake #3: Overloading Your Audience with Information
Ever heard the idiom “too much of a good thing”? You want your audience to leave feeling they’ve gained valuable knowledge. But overloading your audience with data, facts, sources, guidelines and anecdotes will only end up muddling the main points.
Keep the big picture in mind, including how the information at hand pertains to listeners. This will help your audience avoid getting too hung up on minutiae. Whenever you’re referencing data, present it as a clear takeaway rather than in its raw form.
Mistake #4: Surpassing the Attention-Span Limit
Human brains can only focus for so long. The time limit varies based on who you ask, but the principle remains the same. Many experts recommend capping a PowerPoint around 20 minutes whenever possible. If you are surpassing this time marker, make sure to pepper in interesting brain breaks.
Resist the temptation to draw out your presentation simply because it feels like you’ll be delivering more value to your audience. The best presentations are only as long as they need to be; the main points get the spotlight they deserve while anything extra gets cut.
By keeping in mind what not to do in your next presentation, you’ll end up adhering to the best methods for delivering a quality deck of slides.